Today, in the middle of making lunches, doctor appointments, nursery school pick-ups, and errands, I decided to take the little guy to a baby playdate at our local community park. I was super excited for the chance to be outside, alone with the little dude and he was equally happy to be at the park where he could see all the buses driving by (we’re big fans of buses these days! “And the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round, and the wheels on the bus goes round and round, and mommy jumps off at Nordstroms”). We were both equally as excited to be around friendly faces, playing with all kids the same age, in a safe and happy environment. We were a group of mamas, nannies, and babies, happy and playing and free.
Until I saw a nanny go running around a jungle gym, leaping in the air, jumping onto the jungle gym to grab what she thought was about to be a falling child… And that “falling child” was MINE! Except he wasn’t falling. I had my eye on him the whole time. In fact, I was already on the other side of the jungle gym ready to catch him if he veered from his usual course of up, down, to the slide, up down, to the slide, but she hadn’t seen me. I thanked her and smiled and said, “Not to worry, he’s steady on his feet and he knows his limits.” And that’s the truth. He truly does know his limits and when he feels unsteady, he sits down or backs down (like on a staircase). Does that excuse me or anyone else from watching him like a hawk, no, but I am highly aware that this kid doesn’t need me walking him around on a back-pack leash.
We continued playing and having fun. Little dude tried to steal some snacks and we moved on. He found a double stroller, much like our own, and he tried to push it around the park, but oh well, the breaks were locked, so we moved on again to something else fun, like screaming at trucks. I stood talking to another mom, watching him run back across the small park to the double stroller and this time, he decided to climb in it and make himself comfortable. But as he stood up on the baseboard, two nannies started screaming, “Whose kid is that?” with panic in their eyes and they started towards him, but he smiled and sat right down in the carriage as I knew he would (as he always does!). And that’s when I heard the words stumble out of my own mouth as I walked towards him, “Don’t worry, he’s steady on his feet. And he’s my third, I don’t worry as much.”
HOLY CRAP!? AM I THAT MOM!?
Well, that statement is a mixture of fact and fiction. I do worry, A LOT, and then again, I don’t worry AS MUCH as I did with my first.
I’ve always worried about germs (colds, illness, shoes in the house), but that’s lessened in some ways (aka the baby now eating off of my floor or sticking his mouth in the dog’s bowl would not have flown with my first baby). In a lot of ways, I still worry a lot about my first because he is my first and all the FIRSTS as a mother will be with him as the first child. His brothers have it easier in that sense as I am using him to learn and navigate my way through parenthood. He and I are partners in a weird learning game of how to parent and how to grow up.
I’m less worried now of judgment on me as a parent. I now know I am doing the best damn job I can do at the moment with the resources I have and anyone that has crap to say, can take it up with my fist (no, I don’t condone violent responses, but I’m trying to drive a point home!). With my first, I always wondered what other people thought of me as a mother. I’m still reflective and learning, but I care a whole lot less about what friends, family members, and strangers think about my parenting techniques (in a really nice sort of way!).
I was never the “hover over my child” type of parent. I always let my oldest test the waters with me at a safe distance. When he fell, I tried not to make a big deal. I tried to let him work some things out on his own. I truly believe that made things easier as we transitioned from one to two and then two to three siblings. I continue to practice that attitude and I believe it gives my kids the sense of safety and security to meet life head on, knowing they can try and fail and I’m nearby to help them pick-up the pieces, but very proud they tried on their own. I still continue to do mommy and me classes and journal and snap photos and make albums for each child, but with time constraints now, its definitely lessened from first to second to third (but don’t worry, they all still have the important “mommy loves you” things!). I can walk away from a screaming child now with a lot less guilt than I could as a first time mom. Of course, I still cry a little in the car when I leave them crying (with school or the babysitter, etc.), but I know now that the world isn’t going to end and that the minute I am out of sight, the smiles will return and all will be well. And I know that a little time without me is OKAY too, something I definitely struggled with as a first time mom.
But here’s what I realized the most – I am definitely WAY more relaxed about many things that I DO with my kids and ALLOW my kids to do (like eat more than one sugary snack a day), but I am still equally as ANXIOUS to allow anyone else, including my husband, the same equality! I cringe when I see my husband bouncing the baby on his shoulders on a concrete sidewalk because I am not in control, and that’s not to say I don’t trust him or anyone else I leave my kids with, but I just trust myself and my own instincts a little bit more (sorry!). Because when push comes to shove, as much as I’ve relaxed as a mom about MANY things, I’m still a mama bear at heart and I will always do EVERYTHING in my power to make sure my kids stay safe. So yes, I may let my kid eat that cheerio off the ground now (thank you three second rule, or is it five?), but I will always do my damnedest to catch my kid if he’s falling (or send his brother to do it…kidding) and to rub his back as he throws up from that dirty cheerio (his daddy will do the actual clean up – thanks hun!).
So, nannies at the park, thanks for looking out for my little dude today. Moms and nannies and daddies and caregivers alike, it’s nice to know we can all be there to lend a hand, but today, my steady, happy little guy, could handle it all on his own (with mommy near his side).